One of the plants we chose as an understory plant under our black walnut tree (see our previous post about its allelopathy aka negative influence on some plants) is Elder, Sambucus Nigra. We chose it for its many uses and wonderful medicinal properties. I was able to consult Sarah (our lovely in-house naturopath), on its incredible qualities.
The flowers, berries and inner bark of Elder are used in herbal medicine. The flowers and berries are used to loosen mucous and congestion in the chest, ears, nose and throat. They reduce inflammation and relax the respiratory tract, so very useful for colds, sinusitis and chills. It is also a useful remedy for early fevers. Elder is a good friend to have close by as the autumn chill blows in.
Elder is a wonderful herb for children because it is very easily taken as cooled tea or a syrup. It is a protective remedy, and can be used to warm and ward off any colds over the cooler seasons. It is used as a homeopathic remedy in infancy for babes with colds who’s symptoms are worse at night and that are having difficulty sleeping and breastfeeding because of congestion, so very frustrating and tiring for little ones. Beanie, socks and elder to the rescue!
Elderflowers or berries are wonderful through Winter as a tea in combination with Peppermint and Yarrow (see the blog post on Yarrow here to hear more about it).
It is not a difficult plant to grow as it can tolerate poor soil conditions, although it does not withstand drought. For best growing outcomes, plant in a well-drained loamy soil. If you decide to plant in sandy soil, enrich the area with organic matter. You need to plant more than one, as elderberry requires cross-pollination.
With a new plant, let it grow however it pleases for the first two years. Then prune back all the dead areas in early spring and next season you can begin to harvest.
Elderflowers are used to make cordial, wine and champagne. Elderberries can be dried or used fresh, eating raw elderberry is fine in small portions. There are a lot of uses for elderberry, it can be made into syrup, juice, jam and dried fruit can be used for baking.